May 23, 2023
We only work with and promote products from companies that we trust and feel are good for our consumers to use. We are reader-supported. If you decide to make a purchase through one of our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Please read our disclosure for more info.
Last Updated on May 25, 2023 by Verna Meachum
The process of bleaching hair is a scientific one. It alters the structure of your hair and requires you to change your hair care regimen. Caring for bleached hair requires intensive moisturizing treatments, and it is vital that you know the steps to take to keep your hair in good condition before committing to bleaching your hair.
Bleaching involves lightening the hair using an alkaline and oxidation process. Hydrogen Peroxide is often used as an oxidation agent and is left on the hair for about twenty minutes before being washed off. Preserve your bleached color using purple shampoo, protective spray, and hair masks.
If you’re considering bleaching your hair, you should be aware of the possible side effects. Bleaching can severely dry out your hair, make it brittle, and cause it to break. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the science of bleached hair and its impact on hair, how to care for your bleached hair, and to reduce the risk of further damaging it.
Blonde is a color that has been in style for centuries and is set to remain popular for generations to come. However, the bleaching process does not come without significant risks.
Bleaching is probably one of the most popular hair coloring processes among consumers globally. With only 2% of the world’s population having naturally blonde hair, bleaching is the number one way to lighten hair color and achieve a brighter, more radiant look.
With 75% of American women dying their hair in 2023, it’s no wonder bleaching is still such a popular treatment option.
The word “bleaching” is defined as the lightening of hair color via a chemical process or exposure to sunlight. We use a combination of alkaline and oxidation processes to achieve a bleached hair effect.
The oxidizing agent most commonly used is hydrogen peroxide. The process involves applying an alkaline mixture to open the cuticles of the hair strands. The oxidizing agent is then applied to the hair fibers. It is left to work for 15 to 20 minutes or so.
The bleach is removed from the hair with warm water. The hair is treated with a clarifying shampoo to rinse away the bleaching chemical.
The chemistry of hair bleaching involves a series of complex chemical reactions. After the bleaching procedure, the hair’s quality and structure will be different, requiring different care.
In other words, your hair care routine will need to change drastically after you begin bleaching your hair.
Now, let’s go through the fundamentals of hair bleaching, then how to preserve and restore the hair’s texture during and after the bleaching process.
Hair bleaching is a chemical process that strips the natural color of your hair. It removes the melanin from your hair. Melanin is the pigment that gives it its color.
Bleaching permanently changes your hair color, and it is a change that cannot be undone. The process opens up the hair cuticle so the bleach can easily reach the cortex, where the hair cuticle and medulla are situated.
Melanin is a micro granular occurrence found in the cortex of the hair. It scatters the incoming solar radiation and gives color to the hair.
It is formed by specialized cells called melanocytes through a process known as melanogenesis.
Two types of melanin are found in hair. They differ in the pathway of their biosynthesis, characteristics, and color. The two types of melanin are the following:
The color of a person’s hair is determined by the type of melanin they have. The ratio of the mixture of melanins, the size of the pigment granule, its distribution inside the cortex, and the amount of melanin inside the fiber also play a role.
Alkaline hydrogen peroxide is likely the most widely used chemical in hair bleaching.
Hydrogen peroxide is, however, not stable in alkaline high pH conditions. For this reason, it is mixed with an alkaline ammonia solution just before applying it to the hair.
Other alkalizing agents can also be used with similar effects. Ammonia is usually preferred because of its specific role in hair bleaching.
Mixing with ammonia raises the pH of hydrogen peroxide and activates it to start the chemical reaction.
Under microscopic analysis, we can see that ammonia and hydrogen peroxide penetrate the cuticle targeting the melanin grains in the cortex.
The alkaline hydrogen peroxide degrades the melanin grains. It solubilizes them at a high pH, breaking them down into smaller molecules. The smaller molecules are more hydrophilic and can dissolve in water. These derivatives are then subsequently rinsed off.
Bleaching hair is a common practice globally, and the effects can be stunning on those with good results. The process can have adverse effects, which should be considered before deciding whether to bleach your hair.
Some of the adverse effects of bleached hair include:
The oxidation process of hair bleaching is a harsh chemical process. The high pH hydrogen peroxide causes significant damage to the hair fibers. For clients with underlying conditions, there may be additional unforeseen adverse effects.
Let’s look at a few essential factors to keep in mind when considering the aftermath of bleached hair.
Hydrogen peroxide bleaches melanin and oxidizes various other protein components of hair keratin, too.
Disulfide bonds are the backbone of the hair’s mechanical strength. Hydrogen peroxide attacks this vital chemical linkage and can break it. This leaves hair significantly damaged, porous, and weak and can lead to the hair easily breaking.
Furthermore, keratin’s cystine (sulfur-containing amino acid) is oxidized to cystic acid, making hair more hydrophilic. That’s why bleached hair can absorb more moisture and get frizzier than unbleached.
As described above, excessive hair bleaching with high amounts of hydrogen peroxide and ammonia leaves hair highly damaged.
It can lead the hair shaft to become porous and weak and lead to breakage.
Hair becomes dry, dull, and frizzy, making it more challenging to style. Hair also becomes weak and can even snap during regular brushing or grooming.
Split ends are also common, and hair can become somewhat unmanageable.
Protein loss from hair fibers leaves hair thin for some people. Repeated bleaching causes significant thinning or a decrease in the hair shaft’s diameter.
This is problematic because excessive thinning may lead to significant hair loss.
Through the bleaching procedure, hairdressers and clients aim to achieve a specific shade of blonde. However, things sometimes go differently than planned.
The end hair color tone might differ from what was anticipated. This is likely due to the hair’s condition and the history of chemical treatments to the hair.
The undesired results often subsequently require color correction using toners or color modifiers.
In summary, bleaching has a substantial impact on the quality of hair, its physiochemical features, and its ability to be managed.
If you are on track to bleach your hair, it is vital to understand what processes have been done on it and to take care of it afterward.
Using a combination of preservation and restoration techniques, you can easily care for your hair at home and keep it looking its best.
Hair bleach can significantly impact hair in both good and bad ways. When restoring or preserving the integrity of blonde hair, finding a balance between moisture and protein is essential.
There are two key things to do: preserve and then restore your hair to maintain a gorgeous look.
There are several ways to preserve your new hair color. Here are our selection of Do’s and Don’ts:
If you carefully avoid harsh chemicals and protect your locks from the sun and heat, you can preserve your bleached color for a substantial.
During bleaching, efforts are made to minimize the extent of damage, control excessive hair bleaching, and minimize the loss of hair’s mechanical abilities.
This can be achieved by employing relatively milder bleaching conditions and adding hair conditioning or strengthening agents into the bleaching formulation.
Various hair care companies have introduced a “Hair Bonder” or “Bond Sustainer” such as Olaplex.
These formulations comprise multiple active ingredients that aim to preserve hair fibers’ biological, chemical, and mechanical integrity during chemical treatments.
They work simultaneously with hydrogen peroxide to form chemical bonds inside the hair cortex.
Remember that the key to maintaining your bleached hair is giving it extra moisture and care.
The second approach is restoring the hair quality after bleaching. This is done using specially formulated hair care products that help rebuild and reinforce the hair.
The wonderful news is that there are ways to counteract the adverse effects of bleach.
It requires cleansing hair fibers using a mild sulfate-free shampoo. After that, apply a hair conditioning treatment, and use a leave-in product.
These formulations mainly contain the following ingredients:
They also usually contain high levels of amino acids and other nutrients that can help restore and maintain bleached hair.
While these products cannot reverse all the damage that has been done, they can certainly help improve hair’s condition and make it more manageable.
Bleaching makes hair more porous, and the pore size also increases. Therefore, the conditioning actives can penetrate deep into hair fibers filling the empty spaces/gaps and cementing different components.
This helps restore the hair’s mechanical strength, improves hair shine, and aligns the cuticles, leading to smooth, shiny, and healthy hair.
If you have bleached hair and struggle with dry and damaged locks, it may feel like you will never get your beautiful natural hair back. Rest easy knowing that with a little perseverance, you can have glorious hair and the lighter color you desire. Let’s dig into our top tips to help you care for your bleached hair.
First, it is essential to have the patience of a saint. Bleached hair is often dry and somewhat brittle, and restoring it to its beautiful former glory can take some time. Celebrate the small wins and keep up with your care routine.
Take the time to use a gentle shampoo and conditioner as a part of your regular care treatment. Bleached hair is particularly susceptible to damage even from things that would not typically harm unbleached hair, so avoiding harsh or drying products is essential.
Use a deep conditioning treatment weekly. Bleached hair tends to be a little dry and slightly frizzy, so a weekly deep conditioning treatment will help keep it moisturized and healthy.
Take extra care of your bleached hair to keep it looking healthy. Adding a good protein treatment to your hair care routine is crucial.
Protein treatments help rebuild and strengthen the hair shaft, which bleaching can damage.
Protein treatments are available at most beauty supplies and drug stores. Here is a list of my ultimate favorite protein treatments.
Simply follow the manufacturer’s directions on the package, and you’ll soon be celebrating healthier, stronger, more fabulous hair.
Anyone who has bleached hair knows that it’s a lasting commitment. You need to keep up with the root growth, but you also have to take extra daily care of your hair to keep it healthy and looking its best.
One way to help care for it is to use a shower filter. Hard water can cause all sorts of grime to build up on your bleached hair, making it challenging to manage.
A shower filter can help remove some of that excess grime, making it easier to keep your bleached hair looking its very best.
Celebrities including the Kardashians and Sydney Sweeney swear by the shower heads they have installed in their homes and say that they contribute to their soft and silky hair.
Here’s the shower filter I love and own.
A chelating shampoo will help to remove build-up from products and minerals in the shower water. These shampoos are stronger than clarifying ones as they break the bond between any mineral deposits on your hair and the strand itself.
Use this type of shampoo at least once a month (depending on the hardness of the water in your specific area).
Here is a list of great chelating shampoos.
Use shampoo and conditioner made specifically for hair that has been bleached.
Avoid using extremely hot water when washing, as this can further damage your hair’s structure.
Use warm water and avoid scrubbing your hair aggressively.
You can maintain the bleached color by using purple shampoo to help delay the onset of any unwanted yellow tones.
Don’t skip your scheduled haircuts. Getting regular hair trims is one of the best ways to maintain your bleached hair.
Trims help eliminate damaged or split ends and make your hair look healthier. Trimming your hair also gives the appearance of overall healthier locks and allows more space for healthier hair to grow.
Bleach may cause curls to stretch out, causing them to lose their springy form. For that reason, I prefer to have my hair trimmed after the color.
It is essential to keep your bleached hair hydrated. This can be done using a deep conditioner or hydrating mask at least once or twice weekly.
Applying oil to bleached hair can help seal in moisture and keep your ends intact.
Some oils can penetrate into the cuticle and provide optimal care for your bleached hair.
Try coconut, or Amla oil for quick, lasting results. Among those who use coconut oil on their hair are Gwyneth Paltrow, Zoe Kravitz, Priyanka Chopra, and Nicole Richie.
A silk or satin pillowcase is one of the most noteworthy and luxurious investments you can make for your bleached hair.
The soft, slippery fabric allows the strands of your hair slip on top of the case instead of bending, pulling, or breaking them.
Our grandmothers obviously knew a thing or two about beauty. Invest in one to preserve your color and enjoy a lasting shine and healthy head of hair.
Hair bleaching is a widespread practice globally. It lightens the hair color by bleaching out melanin granules.
The end color is lighter in the shade, while hair becomes fragile, damaged, and with significant frizz.
Hair quality can be preserved or restored using “Hair Bonder” or “Actives” that penetrate the hair cortex.
Maintain your bleached hair daily to keep your healthy, gorgeous hair.
Bleaching is a harsh process that breaks up the proteins in the hair to remove color. This can cause the hair to become weak, dry, brittle, and more susceptible to damage.
The effect of bleaching hair depends on how often you bleach your hair, the health of your hair to begin with, and how well you take care of your hair afterward.
If you bleach your hair often, or if you have damaged hair, to begin with, bleaching can cause significant damage in the short and long run.
Yes, bleached hair can be healthy. You need to establish a healthy haircare routine to balance the harm and maintain your hair in its most luscious condition.
Bleaching hair is not for everyone. It’s an ongoing commitment that requires your time, effort, and regular upkeep.
The hair that has had its color removed is known as bleached. You can only get the color back into your hair if you dye it back to its original color.
Bleaching strips away your hair’s natural oils and dries out your hair. It’s a bad idea to wash your hair immediately after bleaching it, but you can wash it a week or two later.
The more bleach you use, the more likely your hair will break off. But, if you take good care of your bleached hair and avoid over-processing it, it’s possible for your bleached hair to grow.
Yes, coconut oil is good for bleached blonde hair. You may use coconut oil once weekly to help rebuild your hair strands and regain the luster.
Do not bleach your hair twice in one day! This can cause your hair to break off and leave your hair discolored.
The sun can destroy the melanin in your hair, causing it to become lighter. The hair will maintain that color until you re-dye it or until the new hair grows.
Bleached hair can fade, but it does not return to your natural hair color. Over time, the toner washes out, becoming darker or dull, leading to yellow pigments reappearing. When bleached hair fades, it usually turns brassy or orange.
Hair is bleached by using a mixture of an alkaline and an oxidizing agent. The process strips hair of its natural color and oils. After bleaching, you should begin a rigorous hair care routine to restore and preserve your new style until the next salon visit.
1. C. Robbins, J. Soc. Cosmet. Chem., 1971, 22.
2. C. Zavik and J. Milliquent, in The Science of Hair Care, eds. C. Bouillon and J. Wilkison, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC London, 2nd edn., 2005.
3. C. R. Robbins, Chemical and physical behavior of human hair, 4th edn., SpringerVerlag, New York, 2002.
4. A. C. S. Nogueira and I. Joekes, J. Cosmet. Sci., 2007, 58, 385-391.
5. Wis-Surel, G. M., Some challenges in modern hair colour formulations. Inter. J. of Cosmet. Sci 1999, 21 (5), 327-340.
Printables are part of The Mestiza Muse tools to add to your hair care arsenal.
They are time savers!
My Done For You Free Printables
I had to listen to what my hair needed...my curls are finally ready to take in some moisture again!!!
- renee, Stylist Liaison
- renee, Stylist Liaison
“I truly couldn't have gotten through this without her knowledge, advice and support...after suffering from Hygral Fatigue and getting tons of advice @themestizamuse.”
“@themestizamuse: for ESSENTIAL information you will NEED TO KNOW in order to see results.”
See how easy the topics are to find on her page (a few posts screenshot)? There is no topic Verna hasn't covered.
- dominique P, wavy hair enthusiast
- dominique P, wavy hair enthusiast
“I have learned a whole heap of knowledge from @themestizamuse.”
Inspiring hair tutor, grateful for what she offers the Curly Community in authenticity, passion, and knowledge.
- zoe F, Producer & Host of The Curl Squad
- zoe F, Producer & Host of The Curl Squad
“I was so excited to embrace my curls and take better care of them. As I started to dive in, I immediately became overwhelmed with the information.”
I read books and tried doing things because "that's what I'm supposed to do," but it didn't always work and I didn't understand why. I'm so grateful for Verna and her blog. Her info. actually helped me understand more of the science of why some methods helped and what products or ingredients to use and why. Anyone that compliments my hair and wants to start a curly journey, I tell them to start here. My hair is so much healthier and I'm so happy with it.
- stephanie, Curly hair enthusiast
- stephanie, Curly hair enthusiast
“One day you will wake up and there won't be any more time to do the things you've always wanted. Do it now”
- Paulo coelho